A common misconception of children's plays is that they are way too simplistic to hold any appeal to anyone over the age of eight years old, but what most people don’t understand is the very fine line that the writers have to maintain of humor and clarity throughout the entire duration of any play aimed towards a younger demographic. Red Riding Hood, written by Allison Gregory and directed by Steven Dietz, does this perfectly. Red Riding Hood is an adaptation of the classic fairy tale in which Little Red Riding Hood ventures into the woods to deliver a basket of food to her sick grandmother. Upon her arrival, she finds a wolf disguised as her grandmother, resulting in Red Riding Hood’s death. Of course, there are hundreds of different retellings of this story, each a little bit different.
The play begins with Wolfgang (Conner Neddersen) starting to rehearse his one-man show adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood. One of the many things that make this play unique is that it is a play within a play, meaning you, the audience member, are essentially watching these characters while they practice for their upcoming performance. Wolfgang dawns massive furry gloves, this comical accessory setting the stage for many laughs to come. While at the climactic moment where Wolfgang mimes devouring Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, a delivery woman (Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako) enters the stage holding a mysterious package. This package will be a subject of Wolfgang’s suspicion for practically the entire play, with frequent requests from Wolfgang to see what’s inside. This is when the delivery woman resolves to assist Wolfgang in telling the story because according to her, he was not telling the story accurately. After a good amount of pushback on Wolfgang’s side, he gives in to letting her join his show. For the rest of the play, the two switch parts between Red Riding Hood, the wolf, Red Riding Hood’s mother, and Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, a fantastic direction for the play to take. Once settling on their roles, the delivery woman as Red Riding Hood, and Wolfgang maintaining his role as Wolfgang, the story continues. The pair venture through the forest on the way to Grandmother’s house, Wolfgang attempts to eat Red Riding Hood a few times, and many, many, wolf puns and absurd jokes later, they finally arrive at Grandmother’s house.
After arriving at Grandmother’s house, a sequence of knock-knock jokes takes place while Wolfgang tries to get the delivery woman as Grandma to let him in. One of which includes the viral “Candice” joke where you bait someone into asking who “Candice” is by implying you know someone by that name, the joke ends with saying "Candice fit in your mouth!" or something rudely funny along those lines Unsurprisingly, seeing as the crowd was filled with exclusively five year olds and 40 year olds, the joke earned zero laughs.
My favorite thing about this production would have to have been the sets. Due to the small stage, the sets were very simple. For all of the scenes that took place within Grandma’s house, there was nothing but a large bed, window, and doorframe, all extremely well crafted to fit the more old-fashioned, cottage aesthetic this set had. Later on in the play when Little Red Riding Hood and Grandma get swallowed by the wolf, the curtain comes down halfway, and the lighting is slightly dimmed while also being given a reddish tinge to emulate the inside of a wolf’s stomach. Although the set design was simple, these choices were very effective at sucking viewers into the imaginative world the two actors were creating.
The end of the play was somewhat dull, but cute nonetheless seeing as it caters to a much younger audience. After Wolfgang and the delivery woman ended their performance and changed out of their respective costumes, the delivery woman took a look at the package she was meant to deliver from the start of the play. She realizes that the package was addressed to “Wolfgang” and so they open it up. Inside was a cake that Wolfgang decided to share with the delivery woman, having finally acknowledged her as a friend.
While most people have an aversion to children's plays, they can be much more engaging and creative than other plays aimed at people who are older. Kids are especially hard to keep entertained for long periods of time, and with an audience of five year olds, it’s important to make sure that things are constantly happening, that sets are always changing, that everything is entertaining enough so that they will keep watching, but also simple enough so that they will understand. Although I’m way above the target age range for this performance, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The acting was fantastic, the plot was funny, and the overall character dynamic was hilarious. For anyone looking for a quick laugh, children’s plays are undoubtedly the way to go.